Soul and Spirit


However, when He, the Spirit of truth, has come, He will guide you into all truth; for He will not speak on His own authority, but whatever He hears He will speak; and He will tell you things to come. (John 16:13) 

St Augustine writes: 

My brothers and sisters, if you want the Holy Spirit to dwell in you, listen carefully. 


Our spirit, by means of which each individual lives, is called the soul. And look what the soul does in the body. It gives life to all the limbs. It sees with the eyes, hears with the ears, smells with the nose, speaks with the tongue, works with the hands, walks with the feet. It is present at one and the same time in all the limbs to make them live. It gives life to all the limbs and to each limb its function. It is not the eye that hears, nor the ear that sees, nor the eye or the ear that speaks. Yet they are nonetheless alive. The ear is alive, the tongue is alive. Their functions are different, the life is the same. 

The Church of God is like that. 

By means of some believers she performs miracles, by means of others she teaches the truth; by means of some she keeps virginity, by means of others she respects marital fidelity. The tasks are different, the life is the same. 


What the soul is to the body of a human being, the Holy Spirit is to the body of Christ, the Church. The Holy Spirit does for the whole Church what the soul does for the body of the individual. 

Look then and see what you ought to fear and what you ought to avoid. If the body suffers an amputation (for example of a finger or a hand or a foot) does the soul go with the limb that has been cut off? While it was in the body, that limb was alive; when it is cut off, it loses its life.  

It is like that with Christians. They are alive only while they are in the Body. If they are cut off from the Body, the Holy Spirit is no longer with them.   (DRINKING FROM THE HIDDEN FOUNTAIN, pp 317-318) 


In the above passage, St Augustine blurs the distinction a bit between the soul and the Spirit.  It is a view of humanity that does view us humans as having a natural relationship to God in which God’s Spirit is part of what makes us human. The animating force in us which makes us alive and distinct as human beings is somehow related to the Spirit of God. Whether we know it, like it or believe it –or not—we have a natural relationship with God that helps define who and what we are. 


[In the Orthodox lectionary Gospel for today we hear Christ’s words: “…yes, the time is coming that whoever kills you will think that he offers God service. And these things they will do to you because they have not known the Father nor Me.” (John 16:2-3) Russian Orthodox Patriarch Kirill supports and blesses the Russian invasion of Ukraine and the killing of people both he and Russian President Putin claim as members of their church and nation. They try to justify these killings based on their misguided sense that murdering some of these people will keep Russia safe from foreign ideas.  But Christ’s words above reflect the truth that they are wrong and misguided.  They justify killing even people they claim are their fellow Christians because as Christ taught “they have not known the Father nor Me.”  If they knew the Father and the Son they wouldn’t be doing the work of Satan. As the Lord Jesus tells His opponents: “Why do you not understand what I say? It is because you cannot bear to hear my word. You are of your father the devil, and your will is to do your father’s desires. He was a murderer from the beginning, and has nothing to do with the truth, because there is no truth in him. When he lies, he speaks according to his own nature, for he is a liar and the father of lies. But, because I tell the truth, you do not believe me” (John 8:43-45). Neither Patriarch Kirill, Vladimir Putin or the Russian Synod would be doing what they are doing if they actually listened to Christ.]